Typography, as a Design Tool in Print Advertising,

is more effective than Pictorial Images


A Senior Thesis

Submitted to the Faculty

of the College of Arts and Sciences






in partial fulfillment of

the requirements for graduation from the

Honors Program


Division of Fine Arts





Miriam M. Ahmed




Washington, D.C.

April 27, 2004


            I would like to thank my professors and advisors at Howard University – Professor Del Harrod, Dr. Starmanda Bullock, Professor Mark Bartley, Dr. Floyd Coleman and Dr. Daniel Williams – for their infinite support and guidance during my undergraduate career and throughout this thesis.

Table of Contents


Typography in Advertising…………………………………………………………

Typography – the Original Communication Design Tool………………………….

Typography after the Industrial Revolution………………………………………..

Diversity of Type…………………………………………………………………..

Typography – Simply more Creative………………………………………………

Types of People…………………………………………………………………….

Case Study………………………………………………………………………….





            Today, as a result of the capabilities of our technologically savvy, and downright racy generation, we are constantly bombarded by pictures – of cars, women, children, paradise, you name it. We are barraged by television, billboards, internet images, magazine and newspaper ads, pictures, pictures, pictures... each one screaming a thousand words, each word provoking millions of ideas.

What do we get from all this stimulation? Well, personally, I get a desire for a sun drenched beach, strictly lacking all that stimulation. It wears us down –stimulation – at the end of the day. So then, why do we get up the next morning and face the assault again? It is because we want people to buy our product. It is simple economics: because money makes the world go ‘round, advertising is necessary for survival as we know it.

I have an alternative suggestion for alleviating the constant intake of stimuli. Scrap the pictures, and go back to basics. Use the tool that intellectuals have heartened to throughout the evolution of the world – the written word. Intellectuals favor the written word because it can be molded and shaped into a direct, effective and quite powerful means of communication. The written word also entails a distinction of beauty and sophistication. In fact, it is the most collected means of communication throughout history, to give an inkling of its worth. Type therefore, as a design tool in print advertising, allows for a smoother, more meaningful and comprehensive flow of information without the onslaught of millions of concepts.

In addition to being more direct and intellectually stimulating, typography allows for a much simpler approach to design. In many cases, simplicity stimulates greater creativity on the part of the designer, which effects a greater positive reaction from the audience. Typography also holds to its advantage the fact that the only pre-requisite for clear communication is literacy. There is no need to consider demographic differences (other than language) when designing with type. Pictures depend on connections between image and concept to be successful communicators, but these links are becoming harder to establish given the globalization of most large cities whereby cultural and historical differences are giving new slants to supposedly pre-established norms. Thus, typography, by its ability to say exactly what is meant, is the stronger design tool.

To begin my debate on typography as a superior design tool to pictures in advertising, I must first differentiate certain terms:


type design,


image, and

pictorial image (picture).

Because of the overlapping nature of some of these terms, it is necessary to define them in the context of my discussion to avoid any confusion that may arise from their use.

            Typography is the arrangement of type characters (letters, numerals or punctuation marks) or typeset matter in terms of style or appearance, by manipulating spacing, alignment and fitting of type, typeface selection and design.

Type design refers to the different renditions of a typeface such as boldface, italics, underlined, shadowed, even super- and sub-script.

An illustration or figure may be a graph, chart, continuous tone or line art rendering, half tone, or even a magnified view used to produce an image.

An image is any representation of a concept or object, including but not limited to typography, illustration and/or pictorial composition, created on any material. It can be produced via any process including stamping, drawing, cutting, carving, engraving, marking, typewriting, typesetting and photography. An image is considered an intentional representation for communication of a message.

A pictorial image or picture refers to any illustrative material rendered with such clarity as to produce a realistic subject that is easily recognizable, usually within a specific time period or place.


Typography in Advertising

A picture is worth a thousand words. Typography’s advantage over the pictorial image is that in advertising there is no need for a thousand words. The thousand ideas generated from a picture is harmful mental clutter. Effective advertising requires one direct, focused message to be conveyed. The use of pictures instead of typography results in a tumultuous muddle of wayward ideas and thoughts, disconnected from the advertiser’s aim and thus useless to the advertiser. The use of a typographically strong composition helps bring focus to the viewer.

Focus is what our technologically savvy generation frequently lacks. In 2002, more than 80,000 national college freshmen were “undecided” majors[1]. Seventy years before, if one were at college, “undecided” was not an option. Coincidentally, seventy years before, the college class was a society of social and political activists[2] –intellectuals, who were characterized by their use of the written word to effect change. Seventy years ago people were known for revolutionary activism. Today, our generation is characterized by an inert contentment with social precedents. There is hardly any active focus on particular goals. This is largely due to the onslaught of pictorial advertising which portrays baseless, materialistic images as desirable. Typography in advertising can re-direct our generation, and society’s perception of a fulfilling life by eliminating the clutter of wayward ideas projected by the use of pictorial images, and instead directing clear, focused ideas to the community.

Typography – the Original Communication Design Tool

Typography has been at the root of communication design since the beginning of writing. Although the earliest forms of writing – cave art, cuneiform and hieroglyphics – are sometimes referred to as picture writing or pictographs, it must be clarified that the images or icons produced as characters were not realistically rendered and so cannot be considered pictorial images. The characters used in these early forms were illustrative and symbolic, and soon transformed from their iconographic forms to strokes, curves and dots that make up the alphabet characters we know today. Thus from the beginning of writing, type has been used in a decorative or iconographic manner for communication.

Cave Art, Lascaux, France.

Engraved Cuneiform Tablet, Assyria.

Hieroglyphics on Luxor Tomb Wall, Luxor, Egypt.

Before the advent of photography or traditional paintings, type was the main tool that people over many centuries saw as satisfactory for communicating their ideas. In most design history books, this heavy use of type is seen as a shortcoming, especially in newspaper design, because of the lack of technology available at that time. While I agree that the first use of pictorial images revolutionized design and certainly made an invaluable contribution to news publications and advertising, we cannot forget that type design came first and it was by no means inferior for communicating ideas.

One of the most famous manuscripts in history, displayed in the Library of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, dates back to the seventh century and contains some of the most lavish specimens of typographic design. The famous Book of Kells is the most elaborately designed book of its kind to have survived from the early Middle Ages. In it, the four Gospels were transcribed by Columban monks on 680 pages.[3] One of the best known pages of Kells is called Chi Rho (from the Greek for Christ) which tells St. Matthew’s story of the nativity. Three intricately detailed letters form the main image and only two other words are present: autem (now) and generation (the birth). Many pictorial illustrations of people, animals and objects are found woven into the design of the pages of Kells, but none come close to overshadowing the prevailing typography.

Book of Kells, Chi Ro, Library of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

From the Book of Kells, it is evident that typography played a dominant part in mainstream design in the seventh century, and other manuscripts created later continued the tradition of intricate typographic design. Just as colored light filters through stained glass, light reflected off the rich colors and gold and silver leaf used to highlight the manuscripts. These “illuminated” manuscripts also served as a primary means of education and performed much the same function as the stained glass window of the church in providing an embellished and thus more appealing means of education. Manual, meticulous reproduction of these type-driven manuscripts was heavily responsible for spreading information and increasing education.[4]

Typography after the Industrial Revolution

When Johann Gutenberg produced the first mass-production assembly technique in his 1440 – 1456 invention of the printing press (more than 400 years before Henry Ford capitalized on the process) this distribution of information skyrocketed in a world-changing period called the incunabla (cradle). Over 35,000 editions and nine million books were printed using Gutenberg’s invention of movable type whereby individual characters were cast (presumably into metal) instead of entire pages or blocks as was done previously in printmaking.[5] With the ease of reproduction came the first emphasis on creating different typefaces – away from the norm of calligraphic tradition. Typefaces have grown in number consistently to this day and add immensely to the diversity and capability of typography.

As the rapid growing literate middle class seized consumer power during the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, economic improvement meant mechanization was better. This, combined with the new multitude of available typefaces, led to the decline of traditional calligraphy in typographic design. An advocate of new and original typefaces was William Blake who pressed for creative freedom in typographic design through the process of lithography. Blake’s lithographic designs featured typography that is both illustrated and connected with the image as in the title page of his Songs of Innocence.


Blake, William. Songs of Innocence.

            Color was later added to this process resulting in chromolithography whereby the resistance between oil and water was utilized in waxing only parts of the image and then applying ink. Because the process required the entire image to be drawn in reverse in order to be “stamped” from a smooth lithographic stone to the paper, letterforms gradually lost their rigidity and became free flowing as the artists made the type conform to the aesthetic of the entire composition. The result was type merging into illustrations, and deviating from the horizontal or vertical line into curves, outlines of images and overlapping forms. This style of typography influenced the art nouveau period from 1890 to 1910 which favored organic, fluid shapes and is considered one of the first phases of the modern art movement. Famous from the art nouveau period was designer Jacques Villon, whose 1899 Le Grillon poster features type designed in the same manner as the illustration and disregarding linear conventions.

Villon, Jacques. Le Grillon.

            As expressionism in typography developed in art nouveau, art deco and cubism through the works of Walter Schnackenberg and Oskar Kokoschka, the Bauhaus movement also placed its significant mark on typography, for example in the work of Lyonel Feininger. The embrace of the technological age and the desire to suppress individual expression resulted in a focus on visual organization and rational sans serif typefaces that still survives today. However, the capabilities of the computer are so extensive that today, no single period of art influences typography and a diverse combination of rigid and freeform typefaces, such as in George Tscherny’s 1958 calendar, is the norm.

Kokoschka, Oskar. Kunstschau poster.

Feininger, Lyonel. Europaische graphic.


Tscherny, George. 1958 appointment calendar.


Typography today embraces every typeface including the sans serif, handwritten, graffiti or cartoon-like, illustrative, paintbrush derived, three-dimensional and etched or scratched gothic forms.


Sans serif      sans serif

Serif      serif

Handwritten   Handwritten

Graffiti      Graffiti



Paintbrush derived


Etched or Scratched

Gothic   Gothic

            Typographic design today calls reference to all periods and movements in art, philosophy and technology. The equipment of a typographer is no longer metal or wood casts and ink; instead software applications on the computer such as QuarkXpress and Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are the tools of the trade. These applications are used to design type in diverse and original ways, and even to mimic the styles of the past. As such, typography today has become timeless, in that because of our technological capabilities, the style of any period is at the touch of a key.

The Apollo Program. Promotional poster.

Diversity of Type

Contrary to popular belief, type is just as versatile and equipped as pictures in terms of compositional diversity. Type design requires numerous elements to be explored and manipulated. Aside from there being a staggering abundance of different typefaces stemming from freely accessible font-designing software on the Internet, each typeface can be adjusted by kerning, tracking, weight, alignment, positioning, color, boldface, italicized type, reversal and the use of lines, curves or blocks of type. The same elements, typical of pictorial composition, can be created with the use of type; such as unity, balance, rhythm, chiaroscuro and perspective. Today, type is probably even more susceptible to these factors and modifications than pictures because of the level of technology we have on hand.

            An example of type manipulation where type design is enlisted to create such elements of pictorial composition is a 1990 Japanese Sound Design Exhibition poster. The fact that the copy in the poster is in Japanese serves to strengthen the argument that type design effectively forms elements of compositional design. Here, type is combined with illustrative elements to generate balance and movement within the composition. Fluidity is perceived initiating from the dominant red arc, and curving vertically downward in a cream-colored stream of text. At the end of the stream, the viewer’s eye is taken to the right by the deviation of a straight block of text angled upward. The curves of the red arc and the oblique orange illustration balance the piece visually. Choice and placement of light and dark colors also contribute to the harmony of elements, while generating perspective; the darkest element falls behind the cream stream of text, which then disappears behind the angled block of text. In addition, texture is implied by the use of characters of highly contrasting sizes, bold characters, and characters reversed into black.

Suzuki, Hitoshi. Sound Design Exhibition.

            Type can be manipulated to form a pictorial (or illustrative) image. Thus, type design incorporates the variety of suggestions and implications contained in pictures; however, the designer has the ability to restrict how many implications are made. Therefore, the designer can efficiently focus and lead the viewer’s perception to the goal of the advertiser. This use of type characters to form an image relating to the advertiser or the product is predominant in logo and graphic mark design. The graphic mark on the business card of Bedford Falls – a California-based production company – features a splashy red letter B formed from rippling and swirling strokes which resemble a waterfall. A sans serif block letter is reversed out of the “falls”, giving the impression of a crystal clear letter F just large enough to distinguish.

Jay Vignon Studios. Business card for Bedford Falls.







The Saturn car corporation logo contains a cursive letter S flipped backward; the strokes denote the rings of the planet Saturn.

Saturn car corporation logo.


            Hawaii’s Coastal Zone Management logo appears to be a river flowing through a mountain valley evoking reflections of Hawaiian landscape, but upon closer inspection, the river bank is really a C, the river is a Z and the mountain range is a letter M – the organization’s corporate letters. It is evident here that the designer’s decision to merge type and image into one interdependent graphic resulted in a much stronger graphic than a pictorial image of a mountain valley and river would have made. Two heads are better than one – the use of double elements to create double the meaning results in double the value and appreciation of the design.

Coastal Zone Management, Hawaii logo.

Type characters do not necessarily have to be altered or morphed as above in order to form an illustrative representation that conveys the advertiser’s concept better than a pictorial image would. A strong instance where type is used to do this without heavy manipulation is a layout for a Young & Rubicam advertisement. The type-driven ad aptly conveys the advertiser’s concept allowing no stray thought. In addition, the design of this ad demonstrates typography’s ability to push viewers to actively analyze the connotation of the words, thus heightening their intellectual comprehension and reasoning abilities. This particular example brings much weight to this argument. In the Young & Rubicam advertisement, the word “tonnage” has effectively been accorded its rightful significance.

Young & Rubicam. Tonnage.

Typography – Simply more Creative

Using typography to illustrate a concept can result in much more creative solutions than pictorial designs. More creativity is generally more appreciated, well-received and convincing. An instance of this is an announcement card done by designers Susan and Wayne Johnson in celebration of the birth of their child. The innovative yet simple execution of an obvious concept combined with the popularity of the Johnson & Johnson brand name and logo make this design a definite winner.

Johnson, Susan. Birth announcement.

            Typography can also play on psychological concepts to invoke more creativity that appeals to audiences more directly than a pictorial image making the same play would. Thus the creative capability of typography is stronger. One example where simple type design “speaks” louder and forces the viewer to read between the lines into the concept projected is a poster for the Communicating Arts Group demanding votes.


Mires Design, Inc. Communicating Arts Group promotional mailer.

Pictures can be Cheap, but Type can be Cheaper!


            Designing with pictures can be a lot harder, more time consuming and more expensive than using typography. Sourcing the ideal picture for a composition, as opposed to having typographical tools right on one’s computer, is a task that may involve searching the internet, purchasing rights for photographs or organizing models for photo shoots. As time is money, the longer the designer takes to source that ideal picture, the worse off the advertiser.

            In order to establish the industry’s stance on typography being the more cost-efficient solution, I posted a request for a quote at Chicago-based advertising agency Sandstorm Design for the following:

Two quotes for two posters to advertise an interior design gallery exhibition called “Wall to Wall”

            Full Color


            Poster 1: Type design only

            Poster 2: Type Design with 1 Photograph

            Copy: Wall to Wall, An Exhibition of Interiors. Free Admission

            2251 Sherman Ave NW

            Washington DC 20001

            202 555 5555


            Sandy Marsico, principal at Sandstorm Design, replied giving insight into the process of sourcing pictures versus type design. From her response, it is evident that typography has more capabilities as far as being more cost-effective:

From: Sandy Marsico <>
To: <>
Subject: Quote for your thesis
Date: Mon, 29 Mar 2004 10:14:37 -0600

Hello Miriam,
A poster with photography may or may not be more expensive. Generally if you have to buy the photo or hire a photographer to take the photo, then pay for the rights, you will find that the cost for the poster with photography is more expensive. In addition, if the photo is full color and your typographic poster is only 1 or 2 colors, the printing for the photographic poster will be more expensive.
At Sandstorm, we don’t quote different pricing for the design of a poster. If a photo is necessary, that is part of the cost. If type is a better solution, then we go with that. We sell design solutions and work within an established budget.


Hope this helps.
Sandy Marsico

Types of People


            Some of the greatest specimens of type design are honored each year in The Annual of the Type Directors Club. Contemporary designers who predominantly work in today’s techno-savvy turf such as Alexander Isley, Allison Williams and Gail Anderson have had their typographic contributions showcased in the Annual in past years. Instead of featuring such contemporary designers, I have elected to feature three women – Diana Graham, Jacklin Pinsler and Paula Scher – who have worked in the field of typography for over thirty years gathering experience and wisdom in their arena. They are all from diverse backgrounds, and none of their works featured here were done in the last ten years, but due to their type-based nature, they are classic examples of timeless design.

            From their work, we can see that type-design is more enduring than pictorial design. Their compositions could rival any present-day trendy print advertisements, and it is likely that their work will not be outdated for a long time to come. The majority of pictorial designs from ten years ago would be obviously obsolete due to the fact that pictorial images are usually easily placed within a timeframe and place. Because the styles of practically all elements in society change so often, it is easy to tell a picture from ten years ago and a picture from today. Of the many clues that give away a picture’s date, the major ones are clothing style, hairstyle, surrounding architecture and other elements that may be present in the picture like vehicles – such as a BMW Z4 roadster versus a Model T Ford (1920s) versus a horse-drawn carriage. Therefore, if it is desired that a design that will be used for a number of years should stay timely and not reflect the past in the eyes of the viewer, pictorial images would be unsuitable in most cases.

            An example of this unsuitability can be seen in Diana Graham’s design for the Macmillan, Inc. 1981 annual report cover. An annual report by nature reflects a company’s state of affairs at the end of the previous year; therefore the picture of the young woman dressed in a 1980’s jumper accurately places the design of the 1981 cover in the relevant financial year. However, if the company, wishing to be cost-efficient and to maintain corporate identity recognition and consistency in their annual reports, decided to re-use the same cover design for future annual reports, it would be inappropriate for use today because of the picture of the young woman who is obviously not from today’s market. Even though the main design element is type, the young woman, miniscule in comparison to the huge M, would still make the design unacceptable for use today. Had that picture been replaced by typographic design as illustrated, the same cover design could work for the 2003 annual report.

Graham, Diana. Macmillan, Inc. annual report cover.


Modified from Graham, Diana. Macmillan, Inc. annual report cover.

The following pieces from Graham, Pinsler and Scher demonstrate how type-driven design directs and captures the viewer’s attention, allows the same flexibility and variety that pictures do, and stands outside of any specific timeframe; thus being more effective and enduring than picture-based design.


Diana Graham

Born 1944, Denver, Colorado.


            Diana Graham’s upbringing saw her traveling from Japan to Spain and Mississippi to California. Such a wide ranging foundation provided her with channels for increased individuality and versatility. She settled in New York City and graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 1965. Her early typographical experience came from working with famed designer, George Tscherny, and other SVA instructors and colleagues. She counts as her chief influence Paul Rand – a groundbreaking designer who is saluted with having added definition to the term Graphic Design.

            She was granted the 1993 International Designer of the Year Award for Women in Design and her work has been featured in Communication Arts magazine and Graphics USA. Graham now lives and works in Munich, Germany.

            Graham’s diverse background and influences contribute a non-exclusive style to her work. Her versatility allows unique solutions to a wide range of projects which include corporate identities, movie posters and environmental exhibits. However, all her works possess recognizable traits – directness and simplicity. She is known for her particular attention to craftsmanship and discipline within her work. Graham arranges compositions “poetically”, choosing and manipulating certain elements of design specifically for their underlying significance.[6]

            The poetic nature of Diana Graham’s design can be clearly distinguished in a booklet co-designed by Wing Chan advertising the opening of Diagram Design and Marketing Communications Inc. The front cover is simply monochromatic and contains di-cut circular openings, behind which sans-serif lettering is hidden in plain view. The concept is to capture the viewer first, then pull the attention all the way to the end, much like poets do with allusions and double entendres. It is an invitation to open a literal and symbolic door and see what is inside – precisely what a newly launched firm would extend to potential clients.


Graham, Diana, Chan, Wing. Opening Booklet for Diagram Design.


            In Graham’s poster for Mobil Exploration Norway Inc., the focus of the viewer is immediately narrowed to the massive letter N which then recedes to the background and allows the figure ground to emerge as contrasting but unifying elements. The opposing colors offset each other, while size and position of the word Norway and the Viking hull lead the viewer through the piece in order of importance of elements. The word Norway establishes the setting and places the viewer. The illustrative hull – a lasting symbol of Norwegian culture – decoratively enhances the impression set, while the curve of the hull leads one to the Mobil logo in the bottom left corner. Then color leads the eye to the body copy in the top left. The design is clipped to its essence, allowing not a stray thought and conserving energy, just as Mobil searches for resources to meet increasing demand.



Graham, Diana. Mobil Oil Norway.


            Likewise, in Graham’s poster for Mobil Sekiyu, Japan, type treatment is dominant and culturally applicable to the target audience and the subject matter. The bright red J swash furnishes the poster with Japanese patriotism and the brush stroke is reminiscent of traditional Japanese calligraphy. The word Japan and the illustration of a Japanese woman again serve to distinctly position the ad and the viewer in a Japanese setting. The black block of copy and the white Mobil logo neatly balance the composition.


Graham, Diana. Mobil Oil Sekiyu.

            The similarity of the two Mobil posters achieved by corresponding placement, overlapping and scale of elements connect the two ads to one company and allow effective branding – ensuring that future advertisements done in the same style are instantly recognizable as Mobil ads which convey the repeated message of efficient exploration. Both the Norway and Sekiyu posters could easily be used today because of their dominant typographic and illustrative elements which do not date the posters.

Graham’s Mobil ads can be likened to British Petroleum’s branding campaign today. The BP ads are also instantly recognizable because of their type-based design. The ads comprise a single line or short paragraph of plain sans-serif black type which dominates the composition, with the most important phrase contained highlighted in BP’s trademark yellow. The highlighted phrase serves to focus the viewer on the main idea of the ad. The green and yellow BP logo is displayed boldly as the only other component. There are no extra elements and therefore no wasted time, money or energy with either company. In twenty years both the Mobil and BP ads will still be identifiable and convey the both companies’ message of efficiency and exploration in the energy sector.


British Petroleum. Harness the Energy.

Jacklin Pinsler

Born 1953, Hertzelia, Israel.


            Jacklin Pinsler was born and raised in Israel in the midst of conflict in the region, and war between Israel and Egypt. At the age of twelve, a stranger to the English language, she moved to Chicago, Illinois. Her knowledge of English grew primarily from familiarity with street signs and graffiti. She attended the University of Illinois, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Art in Graphic Design in 1976. Her mentor at the University of Illinois, David Colley, helped further develop her understanding of the English language and typographic forms. Her design work has been influenced by other forms of fine art such as photography, sculpture and dance, and aspects of formative Constructivism and the Dutch de Stijl movement which emphasized geometric shapes and primary colors. However, Pinsler’s work has always been grounded on stimulating communication and not on aesthetic style.

            Pinsler began her design career at Cuisine magazine, where she fused discipline into her design, and moved on to corporate communications design firm Crosby Associates, Inc. There, her work became softer, more expressive and abstract. Pinsler manipulates her typographic elements to create structured freedom and excited balance between elements. She uses dominating scale and stimulating color to divide information and guide the viewer through her pieces, while maintaining rhythm and equilibrium.

            Pinsler has been honored by the American Institute of Graphic Design, the Society of Typograhic Arts and the New York Art Directors Club. Her work has been published in Industrial Design magazine and Art Direction magazine.[7] She now works with visual communications firm, Instinct, Inc., in Chicago.

            Pinsler’s application of geometric balance, striking color and spatial division is demonstrated in her series of announcements for Creativity Exposed events sponsored by Women in Design. In each composition, the arresting element is a single imposing letter which starts off the title of the event in a dominant color which grabs the viewer’s attention. The reader then sees the vertical column of type which leads into the body copy. Strategically placed geometric accents create balance in the pieces.    Each design is linked by similar treatment of elements and viewers can easily connect them to the same organization and the Creativity Exposed event.




Pinsler, Jacklin. Creativity Exposed announcements.

            Pinsler’s ads can be compared to a German poster invitation to spiritual advancement for Bistum Münster. Similar geometry and vivid color which perform the same functions as in Pinsler’s announcements are evident in this German poster design. The two headings, durst and stille (thirst and silence), trap the viewer within the space, and the white color and dots of the i and exclamation mark carry the viewer upward to read the connection – literally formed by the diagonal line of type which begins: “No amount of knowledge will satisfy and please the spirit…” The poster then invites the viewer to partake in Besinnung (reflection), Meditation and Exerzitien (exercise).

Pinsler, Jacklin. Durst! Stille.

Paula Scher

Born 1948, Washington, DC


Unlike Graham and Pinsler, Paula Scher was not initially attracted to typography. At the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Scher wanted to become an illustrator. When she graduated from Tyler and moved to New York, she began her design career as Art Director at CBS and Atlantic Records. She designed over 700 album covers during her time there. In 1979, a slump in the record industry forced Scher to restrict her artwork to type-design so as to cut costs. It is then that Scher finally explored and examined typography as a major design tool.

Scher counts Seymour Chwast as her major influence in art direction. Chwast guided Scher to look into historic eras like Victoriana, Art Nouveau and Art Deco, for foundational ideas for her designs. This approach has become a trademark of Scher’s, and she is often cited as the major advocate of “retro” design. Scher creates visual analogies to historical references in her work, and appeals to her audience by generating emotional reactions. She also utilizes humor in her pieces and has said that she is happiest when the work is witty and she can make her audience smile. Probably because of her illustrative ambitions, Scher does not follow any rigid method or pattern in designing; rather, she pulls diverse elements and influences from various sources and merges them with an eclectic, spontaneous approach.[8]

Scher has accumulated numerous accolades for her contribution to design, including four Grammy nominations from the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences, and the Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design in 2000. She was inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 1998. Her work is displayed in permanent exhibitions at the National Design Museum in New York, the Cooper-Hewitt and the Museum of Modern Art, and internationally in the Zurich Poster Museum and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. She is author and designer of Make it Bigger (Princeton Architectural Press, 2002). Scher has taught at the New York School of Visual Arts since 1982 and currently works as partner and designer at Pentagram in New York.

In a poster design for the School of Visual Arts, Scher referred to the work of Cassandre (Adolphe Mouron, 1901 – 1968), a Russian commercial artist whose famous poster designs reflect Cubism and Futurism. Scher’s overlapping geometric forms and shades create a Picasso-like composition that becomes a face. Type was then positioned into niches within the shapes to become harmonious with the design. Vivid colors attract and pull the viewer through the piece and word placement is such that allows ease of readability. The composition is eccentric like the stereotypical artist, and the reference to Picasso further calls out to artists as the target audience of the School of Visual Arts.

Scher, Paula. School of Visual Arts.

To create a poster to promote artists on CBS Records, Scher relinquished ease of readability in favor of tightly stacking album names to form a geometric mosaic of words. Scher used bold color to attract the viewer and generate interest in the poster’s content. The apparent overlapping and variety of artists on the CBS Records poster directly reflects the nature of the CBS Record label: it features artists from every spectrum within music – from rockers and drummers to guitarists and jazz musicians. The poster immediately advertises a wide range of artists available, thus appealing to all audiences. The most dominant letterforms in bold black form the word “best”, and throughout the composition “the best of” is repeated. This emphasis on the best suggests that CBS has the best artists, with the best music, and implies the best quality and prices.

Scher, Paula. Best of CBS Records.

Scher’s disregard for rigidity and protocol in design is evident in her spread design for Great Beginnings, a promotional booklet in celebration of great literary beginnings for Koppel and Scher (a design firm that Scher co-founded in 1984). The spread is dedicated to The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka – a novel that comments on social undervaluing of basic truths by an internationally renowned Czech-Austrian author. The first page contains the title of the work with each letter in a different typeface – each typeface morphing into another and each typeface of a different style and timeframe. The dominant M starts the viewer on the journey through the metamorphosis. The viewer is stabilized at the end by the repeated typefaces in 1919, which is accented by a horizontal line that points the way to the next page and leads into a giant 1. The bold vertical stance carries the viewer to a particularly great beginning: the first line of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. This book is credited as “a peculiar narrative in having its climax in the very first sentence: ‘As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.’”[9] The paragraph steps down an unconventional ladder constructed of lines hanging off one another, befitting the unique yet congruous style characteristic of sentences in literary trendsetters. The historic and inventive influence from Kafka’s writing is evident and aptly represented in Scher’s design, and she further exemplifies Kafka’s greatness in expanding his name- signifying an average man that grew into a magnificent author.

Scher, Paula. Great Beginnings.

Scher’s design stands as a timeless tribute to Kafka’s enduring contribution to literature, being functional in any medium at any time. If the designer had tried to create a pictorial composition depicting the man, the content and meaning of The Metamorphosis, and Kafka’s talent and contribution to literature, so many images would be used that an overload of information and implications would be generated. In order to avoid such excess, the artist would have to focus the viewer solely on the man, thus, a picture of Kafka would have been the best out of a limited number of options. Such a design could represent Kafka at only one age, or at most, a few ages without congesting the space. Such a design could not nearly equal the profundity and significance that Scher’s design evokes using the single element of type.

Case Study

Thus far, I have analyzed existing typographic compositions and demonstrated their strength as opposed to pictorial design. To further establish that typography is a better design tool, a survey was conducted whereby a sample population was asked their preference between two advertisements – one typographical, the other pictorial. The sample was randomly taken at Howard University where the average student is between the ages of 18 and 24, and consisted of 300 students.

The students were shown the two ads and after ensuring that they understood both ads, they were asked two questions:

1. Which ad communicated its message faster, or was more likely to catch the eye? and

2. Which ad communicated its message more effectively?

The two ads chosen were a pictorially-based ad for Christiania vodka, and a typographically-driven ad for jobs in the music industry. The subjects of the chosen ads were purposely varied so as to ensure that one ad did not evoke reactions that could be applied to the other - to ensure an unbiased response to each ad.

Christiania Vodka. Seriously Smooth.

Inside Sessions. Land a Job.

The results showed that 60% (180) of those surveyed thought that the typographical composition communicated faster, compared to 40% (120) who chose the pictorial ad, and that 54% (162) thought the typographical ad communicated its message more effectively while 46% (138) chose the pictorial ad.

These results demonstrate that the typical African-American college student – who is exposed to current popular national trends via cable television freely available in Howard University dormitories – finds typographic design to be more effective and therefore stronger than pictorial imagery as a design medium in print advertising.


            Throughout my analysis of various examples of typography in print advertising, from the early forms of communication to today’s trend-setting designs, it has been demonstrated that typography is as versatile a medium as the pictorial image, conveys a clearer and more focused message than pictorial design, heightens intellectual reasoning and comprehension skills, allows for more creativity in design, can be more cost-efficient than pictorial design and was mainstream before the advent of pictorial imagery. These advantages are exemplified by typography being the preferred design medium for African-American college students as far as clear and fast communication in print advertising. Therefore, because of its range of capabilities, we have seen that typography is undeniably a more effective design tool than pictorial images in print advertising.



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Carter, Rob. American Typography Today. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993.


Carter, Rob, Day, Ben and Meggs, Philip. Typographic Design: Form and Communication, 3rd Edition. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc, 2002.


Dair, Carl. Design with Type. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967.


Diebold, William. Word and Image: An Introduction to Early Medieval Art. Boulder: Westview Press, 2000.


Elam, Kimberly. Expressive Typography: the Word as Image. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1990.


Goetz, Kristina. “College quiz 101: What’s your major? Many freshmen need help with answer.” The Cincinnati Enquirer (2003). 13 Aug. 2003.



Kaye, Joyce Rutter. Design Basics: Ideas and Inspiration for working with Layout, Type and Color in Graphic Design. Gloucester: Rockport Publishers, Inc., 2002.


Klinger, Linda. Breaking the Rules in Graphic Design. Rockport: Rockport Publishers, Inc., 1995.


O’Doherty, Brian. “Conservative Student Activism Relative to the Liberal Student Movement: Research Analysis, Historical Review, & Personal Experiences as Leader of a Statewide, Conservative Activist Union.” Bates College.


Poyner, Rick. Typography Now Two: Implosion. Ohio: F&W Publications, 1996.


Sax, L.J., Astin, A. W., Lindholm, J. A., Korn, W.S., Saenz, V. B. & Mahoney K.M. The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 2003. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute, 2003.


Stevenson, George A. Graphic Arts Encyclopedia. New York: Design Press, 1992.


Type Directors Club (USA). The Annual of the Type Directors Club, 45th Exhibition. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1999.

[1] Kristina Goetz, “College quiz 101: What’s your major? Many freshmen need help with answer.” The Cincinnati Enquirer (2003). 13 Aug. 2003.

L.J. Sax, A. W. Astin, J. A.Lindholm, W.S. Korn, V. B. Saenz & K.M. Mohoney, The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 2003, (Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute, 2003).

[2] Brian O’Doherty. “Conservative Student Activism Relative to the Liberal Student Movement: Research Analysis, Historical Review, & Personal Experiences as Leader of a Statewide, Conservative Activist Union.” Bates College.

[3] William Diebold, Word and Image: An Introduction to Early Medieval Art, (Boulder: Westview Press, 2000), 99

[4] Kimberly Elam, Expressive Typography: the Word as Image, (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1990), 25.

[5] Ibid., 25.

Carl Dair, Design with Type, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967), 6.

[6] Rob Carter, American Typography Today (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993), 50.

[7] Ibid., 79.

[8] Ibid., 90.

[9]  Harold Bloom, Franz Kafka’s the Metamorphosis, (New York: Chelsea House, 1998), 19.